A Brittle Sea Star May be a Coral’s Best Friend

Brittle sea stars cling to deep sea coral. Photo Credit: ECOGIG

Brittle sea stars cling to deep sea
coral.  Photo Credit: ECOGIG

Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal recently released a new article in partnership with the Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf (ECOGIG) consortium called A Brittle Sea Star May be a Coral’s Best Friend. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, ECOGIG researchers began studying the impacts of oil on deep sea corals. They noticed a particular type of brittle sea star, Asteroschema clavigerum, gathering on healthy portions of the octocoral Paramuricea biscaya. Scientists wondered if the brittle sea stars were avoiding damaged portions of the coral or if they were protecting them from contamination. Further investigation into this interesting discovery is indicating to ECOGIG researchers that, in fact, the brittle sea stars are helping to protect corals from the impacts of oil by eating descending materials, including oil contaminants, so that they don’t accumulate on the corals’ branches. Find out more here.

Smithsomian's Ocean Portal

Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal.
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Please visit the Educator’s Corner at Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal.  This site provides educators with activities, lessons and educational resources to bring the ocean to life for your students. We have collected top resources from our collaborators to provide you with teacher-tested, ocean science materials for your classroom. We hope these resources, along with the rich experience of the Ocean Portal, will help you inspire the next generation of ocean stewards.